Skip to main content

Full text of "Animal Terms in Children’s Metaphors"

See other formats


ISSN 0281-9864 



Animal Terms in Children's Methaphors 



Nicoletta Caramelli 
Angela Montanari 



1995 



No. 53 




Lund University 
Sweden 



KOGNITIONSVETENSKAPLIG 
FORSKNING 

Cognitive Science Research 



Animal Terms in Children's Methaphors 



Nicoletta Caramelli 
Angela Montanari 



1995 



No. 53 



Cognitive Science Research 

Lund University 
Sweden 



Postal address 



Editor 



Adm. editor 



Cognitive Science Research 
P.O. Box 7080 
S-220 07 LUND 
SWEDEN 



Bernhard Bierschenk 
Department of Psychology 
Lund University 



Helge Helmersson 
Department of Business Adm. 
Lund University 



ABSTRACT 



This research aims at showing that children shift their interpretation of the same metaphor 
according to the social role respectively of the speaker and the addressee of the sentence, to 
the degree of lexicalization of the metaphor, and to their age. We chose the simplest type of 
metaphorical sentence, i.e. the 'nominal' one in the form 'X is a B', where X was a proper 
name and B an animal term. The twelve animal terms used produced six lexicalized and six 
new metaphors. Every metaphor was embedded in four different short stories describing the 
setting in which it was uttered: in the first the speaker and the addressee were both children, 
in the second the speaker was a child and the addressee was a teacher, in the third it was the 
reverse and in the last the speaker and the addressee were both teachers. The forty-eight 
stories obtained were told individually to seventy-two children aged six, nine and twelve. At 
the end of the story the experimenter asked the child what the speaker intended to mean, why, 
and whether he had positive or negative feelings for the addressee. The paraphrases the 
children gave for each metaphor were analysed with instruments typical of textual data 
analysis. Furthermore the data were tabulated as to the perceptual dimensions: shape, color, 
sound, movement; the physical or moral evaluation; and positive or negative connotation. On 
these data too several statistical analyses were performed. 



Metaphorical Comprehension: Some Prerequisites 

In the last twenty years, psycholinguists have spent much effort in studying figurative 
language and metaphorical sentence comprehension. Child language scholars have played a 
leading role in highlighting how many interwoven aspects characterize its comprehension, 
greatly improving our knowledge in this field on both theoretical and methodological 
grounds. This rapid development has resulted in a wealth of approaches, some competing 
some complementary. The following points clarify the view adopted in this study. 

1. The comprehension of metaphoric language does not differ from that required by literal 
language; in metaphor comprehension no stages are required since there is no need to recover 
the literal meaning of the sentence. This assumption can be advanced on two different and 
complementary arguments. According to the first, metaphorical sentences to be 
comprehended do not require longer response times than literal sentences as shown by 
Glucksberg (Glucksberg, Gildea & Booking, 1982). According to the second, inspired by the 
ecological approach, metaphor comprehension is direct as Verbrugge (1980) held when 
observed that 'meaning is a psychological relation' activated by a virtual experience relying 
on the direct biological processes of imagination and perception. In a slightly different 
perspective, Palermo (1986) has stressed the pervasiveness of ambiguity in language so that 
metaphor comprehension is not an exception but the rule in ascribing meaning to sentences. 

2. Meaning is a construction largely based on inferences, world knowledge, language 
knowledge, and pragmatic abilities: particularly in children, the meaning of a metaphor rests 
on an intended meaning the grasping of which can be enhanced by inferences. 

3. The information provided by the extrinsic, be it linguistic or situational, and the intrinsic 
context helps in directing inferences for the construction of the metaphorical meaning 
(Vosniadou, 1989). 

4. Domain knowledge interacts with context information in making both inferences and 
meanings plausible (Keil, 1986). 

5. Metaphors are not grounded on similarity which is their by-product, but on an analogical 
transfer of knowledge from one domain to another. Children transfer their knowledge of 
concrete, real properties of the natural and social world by shifting from one domain to 
another. As they grow up, they can transfer more and more abstract knowledge (Gentner, 
Falkenhainer & Skorstad, 1988). 

The last three points, which are methodological in nature, introduce the research: 



6. Metaphors are not a fixed linguistic construct, there are many types of them which differ in 
their conceptual complexity; moreover, if their comprehension depends on domain 
knowledge, children's failure in understanding them is due to their actual knowledge of the 
domains involved, not to a difficulty in grasping the intended metaphorical meaning. Very 
often metaphors of different complexity are used in the same research without checking 
children's knowledge of the domains involved. Only one type of metaphor, and the simplest 
type, the predicative one i.e. 'A is B' in which A is called the topic and B the vehicle, and 
only one familiar knowledge domain can reduce the stimuli variability to a minimum (about 
the inconsistent conceptualizations of metaphors see Siltanen, 1990). 

7. As the beginning of metaphorical sentence comprehension is one of the most widely 
studied topics of research in this field, several tasks were devised which could be understood 
and performed by very young children. Some of these, however, required children to perform 
an extra cognitive work like choosing from different alternatives in artificial conditions 
(Siltanen, 1990). The simple paraphrase task is the most natural response and prevents the 
experimenter from over-interpreting children's responses as well as from narrowing their 
scope. 

8. When children do not grasp the meaning of a metaphor as intended by the experimenter, 
very often their interpretation is labelled as a simple association, as a magical, fanciful and 
bizarre response. The unexpected response is considered as a failure in comprehension and 
for this reason it is discarded, even if it is meaningful to the child. It is our contention that a 
more careful analysis of the supposed 'deviant' responses could clarify the conceptual 
dynamic which grounds children's interpretation of metaphors and which leads them to 
construct a meaning different from the commonly intended one. An analysis of the sentences 
used by children to express what they think a metaphor means, the paraphrase task, could 
greatly improve our knowledge of the peculiar grounds on which children's construction of 
the meaning of metaphors rests. 

If extralinguistic knowledge plays a role in the construction of meaning in metaphorical 
sentences, the peculiar interpretation of a very simple predicative metaphor can reflect not 
only children's expertise in a specific knowledge domain, as shown by Keil (1986), but, more 
generally, their world knowledge. 

Our hypothesis is that children give the same metaphorical sentence different meanings 
according to 'the intrinsic context' of metaphors which provides the 'culturally shared 
knowledge' as Vosniadou (1989) has suggested. 



One knowledge domain spontaneously acquired by children concerns social relations 
and, first of all, the peculiar relationship between children and adults. Part of this knowledge 
is the pragmatic competence about the different roles played by the 'speaker' and the 
'addressee' of language: so, for instance, when a metaphor is said by a child (speaker) about 
another child (addressee) or by a teacher (speaker) about another teacher (addressee) there is 
a peer relation condition while, when a metaphor is said by a child (speaker) about a teacher 
(addressee) or by a teacher (speaker) about a child (addressee), there is an uneven relation 
condition. 

We argue that this knowledge provides children with the intrinsic context which allows 
them to ascribe different meanings to the same metaphor and, since this knowledge changes 
with age, the interpretation of metaphors, too, will change. 

To test this hypothesis, as the field from which to select the terms to be used 
metaphorically, we chose a knowledge domain: the animal terms, which is well defined 
(Hemley, 1969) and well known even to very young children. Actually, many animal terms 
are frequently used in a figurative sense to address or characterize people: they produce 
frozen metaphors which have a more or less conventional or stereotyped meaning (Kelley, 
Keil, 1985). Many other animal terms, however, are hardly ever used in this way, but if they 
are used metaphorically, they produce novel metaphors. 

Method 

Subjects 

Subjects were 72 children enrolled in a public elementary school; they were chosen at 
random from different classes in order to have three groups with 12 male and 12 female 
children each; the average age in each group was 6.4, 8.7 and 10.9 respectively. They were 
tested at school in a separate room individually. 



Materials 

Twelve predicative metaphors of the form 'A is a B', in which A is called the 'topic' 
and B the 'vehicle' of the metaphor, were formed with a proper name as the 'topic' and the 
name of an animal as the 'vehicle': for instance 'John is a rabbit'. We had six frozen 
metaphors made up of the terms elephant, fox, lion, sheep, snail and wolf, and six novel 
metaphors made up of the terms cod, crow, grasshopper, kangaroo, ladybird, and zebra. 



Each metaphor was preceded by a short story which explained the relationship between 
the speaker and the addressee of the metaphorical target sentence. The speaker could be a 
child addressing another child or a teacher, or a teacher addressing a child or another teacher. 

The stories setting the pragmatic condition when the child was the speaker were: 

- Child addressing another child - condition (CC): 'There was a boy called Paul. He lived 
next door to a boy called David. They used to play together. One day David said: 'Paul is a 

- Child addressing a teacher - condition (CT): 'There was a boy called Mark: Mark went to 
school and his teacher was called Mr Smith. One day Mark said: 'Mr Smith is a ...' 

The stories setting the pragmatic condition when the teacher was the speaker were: 

- Teacher addressing a child - condition (TC): 'In St. Paul school there was a teacher called 
Mr White and one of the pupils was called Robert. One day Mr White said: 'Robert is a ...' 

- Teacher addressing another teacher - condition (TT): 'In St. Andrews school there was a 
teacher called Mr Jenkins. Another teacher was called Mr Parker. They used to spend 
break-time together. One day Mr Jenkins said: 'Mr Parker is a ...' 

As can be seen, the stories were always the same, except for the names of the boys, the 
teachers and the animals. So twelve metaphorical sentences, six of which ending with a 
frozen metaphor and six with a novel one, were presented embedded in a story in the four 
conditions: a child as the speaker and a child as the addressee (CC), a child as the speaker and 
a teacher as the addressee (CT), a teacher as the speaker and a child as the addressee (TC), 
and a teacher as the speaker and a teacher as the addressee (TT). Accordingly, the 
experimental material consisted of 48 stories (12 animal terms metaphors embedded in the 
four conditions). 



Design and Procedure 

In order to avoid boring children too much, the experimental material, consisting of 48 
stories, was presented in a balanced way in four different sessions, at school in a separate 
room, in a friendly atmosphere. 



After reading to a child one of the twelve stories of the session, which were presented 
to all the children one at a time, the experimenter asked him or her what the speaker might 
mean, and then whether the speaker liked or disliked the addressee. The responses were 
transcribed word by word. Then another story was read and so on. 

To verify whether children give different meanings to the same metaphorical sentence 
when uttered in different pragmatic contexts and whether the meaning they construct changes 
with age, different analyses were performed on the collected data. 

1) The number of different words produced by children of different ages in each pragmatic 
condition, for the whole set of metaphors and separately for frozen and novel ones, has been 
analyzed by Friedman non-parametric analysis of variance 1 , in order to assess the effect of 
the context on children's capacity of paraphrasing metaphors, while controlling for age 
differences. (See Tab. 2-4) 

2) Furthermore, for each metaphor, the dependence existing between the pragmatic 
conditions and words used to paraphrase metaphors was analyzed through correspondence 
analysis performed on a cross-tabulation of words (only those used more than three times 
entered the analysis) by an "artificial" variable obtained compounding age and context (its 
states are 6CC, indicating 6 years old children interpreting a metaphor related to a 
child-to-child relation, 6CT indicating children of the same age dealing with a 
child-to-teacher context, and so on for each age class and each different pragmatic condition, 
up to a number of twelve different codings). 



1 Friedman Anova is a non parametric test based on ranks, purposely developed "to avoid the assumption of 
normality implicit in the analysis of variance" (Friedman, 1937). In the problem at hand, in fact, the number of 
different words could hardly be assumed to follow a normal distribution. 

Furthermore Friedman test assumes a randomized block experiment, just like the one we performed. In fact, 
each age group represents a separate homogeneous group of test subjects (in other words it is a block). It was 
then appropriate to compare the subjects only within each block by ranking them separately within a given 
block. The ranks for each pragmatic condition are summed over the blocks and are compared with the ranks 
sums that would have been obtained the pragmatic condition having no effect on the number of words uttered. 
The test statistics is then: 
12 



r = 



■(Rf+...+Rl)-3n(.k + l) 



n*(Jfc+l)' 

where n is the number of blocks, k the number of different pragmatic conditions and /?, the sum of ranks 
corresponding to the j'-th pragmatic condition. 



The aim of the analysis is to measure the distance between the rows of the table and 
between the columns 2 and then to represent both rows and columns on a scatter diagram 
where words plotted far apart indicate that they have had a different use with respect to the 
different pragmatic conditions and distant age-context codings indicate that they have been 
characterized by a different use of words. 

In our application up to 11 dimensions (the number of age-group codings minus one) 
could be determined to account for the words-context dependence, but just four or five 
seemed to give a good approximation to the global variability (inertia) and thus were 
examined in what follows. For clarity reasons only those words mainly contributing to the 
inertia explained by each dimension were graphically represented while all age-context 
codings appear in the graph independently of their role in the definition of the dimension. 
Furthermore, in order to highlight the most important aspects of each dimension the most 
relevant words or codings for the dimension represented in abscissa have been written in bold 
while those mostly affecting the ordinate are in italics. (See Figs. 1-2, 4-5) 
3) Correspondence analysis has been further completed by what is called "specificity 
analysis" (Lafon, 1980) performed, for each metaphor, on the table crossing all words (not 
just those detected more than three times) and age-context codings. 

Through this analysis one evaluates the probability that a given word is used in a given 
context the observed number of times or more (or less) under the assumption that the number 
of occurrences of the word is random, that is, in other terms, that there's no preferred 
association between the word and the context considered (the total number of occurrences of 
the word, the total number of words used and the total number of words used by children in 
the pragmatic condition considered being fixed). 

One then compares the calculated probabilities with a pre-set threshold value. If the 
probability to obtain the observed number of occurrences or more is less than the threshold 
one concludes that the word considered is over-represented with respect to what the 
probability model predicts, and so one can say that the word has a positive specificity for the 
given context. On the contrary, if it is the probability to obtain the observed number of 
occurrences or less that is lower than the threshold it means that the word is under 



2 To be more precise, one indeed measures the distance between "row profiles" and between "column profiles", 
that is row entries divided by the row total and column entries divided by the column total. 



represented or that, to put it in another way, it has a negative specificity. If neither of the 
above mentioned probabilities is below the threshold one says the word is banal for the given 
context. 



Table 1. 

Scored dimensions on which Friedman Anova and multiple correspondence analysis where performed 



SEX 

Male 



M 



Female 



VISUAL RESEMBLANCE (V JR.) 



appearance (a) 
shape (sh) 
colour (c) 
sound (s) 
movement (m) 



absent 1 present 
absent 1 present 
absent 1 present 
absent 1 present 
absent 1 present 



PHYSICAL JUDGMENT (Ph J) 



absent 

big 

small 

fine 

ugly 



(0) 
(b) 
(s) 
(0 
(u) 



MORAL JUDGMENT (M J) 

absent (0) 

good (g) 

bad (b) 

neutral (n) 

clever (c) 

stupid (s) 



ACTION DIMENSION (Act) 
(as expressed for instance by verbs) 
absent (0) 

present (1) 



LIKING DIMENSION (Lik) 
negative (0) 

positive (1) 

half and half (2) 



10 



4) The paraphrases of the metaphors were also coded according to the dimensions shown in 
Table 1 and a Friedman Anova was performed (both on the whole set of metaphors and on 
novel and frozen ones separately), for each age group, on the number of times each 
dimension (with the exclusion of sex and visual resemblance) had been used in the different 
pragmatic conditions, making a block of each metaphor. 

5) In the end, the same coding shown in Table 1 was also used to perform a multiple 
correspondence analysis 3 . This technique may be viewed as a generalization of 
correspondence analysis to situations in which more than two variables are involved. It is 
performed on a data matrix whose rows represent the individuals and whose columns are the 
set of the states the different characters considered can assume. The entries of this Table are 1 
or 0, 1 indicating that the individual bears the modality represented in the column in which it 
appears. This technique too produces a graphical output that is really helpful in highlighting 
the interrelationships existing among the observed characteristics. (See Fig. 3 and Figs. 6-7) 

Results 

The results of Friedman Anova on word frequencies (see Tabs. 2-4) suggest that the 
number of different words used by children to paraphrase the metaphors does not 
significantly change with the pragmatic conditions. A careful analysis of data however shows 
that this result is entirely attributable to the behaviour of six year old children; in fact the rank 
order of the number of words uttered by aged six children differs completely from that shown 
by 9 and 1 1 children's productions. In the child speaker/child addressee condition children 
aged 9 and 1 1 use the least number of different words, while in the teacher speaker/teacher 
addressee condition they use the largest number of different words. The number of different 
words used means that children put greater effort into interpreting what a teacher may have 
intended to say of another teacher than into interpreting what a child may have intended to 
say about another child. Aged 6 children, on the contrary, do not show a sensible difference 
in the number of words produced in each pragmatic condition and this seems to mean that 
they do not yet differentiate the different pragmatic roles. 



3 Contrary to the analysis described in 3) also the sex of the child and the liking dimension (as expressed by the 
responses given to the second question) were considered. 



11 



Table 2. 

Number of different words produced by children on the whole set of metaphors in each pragmatic condition 



Age 


CC 


CT 


TC 


TT 


6.4 


996 


986 


972 


956 




(4) 


(3) 


(2) 


(1) 


8.7 


782 


920 


989 


1332 




(1) 


(2) 


(3) 


(4) 


10.9 


809 


900 


905 


999 




(1) 


(2) 


(3) 


(4) 



Note. The numbers in brackets are the scores inside each block used to perform Friedman Anova. 



Friedman Anova: T = 1 



p = 0.80 



Table 3. 

Number of different words produced by children on the set of frozen metaphors in each pragmatic condition 



Age 


CC 


CT 


TC 


TT 


6.4 


493 


476 


510 


504 




(2) 


(l) 


(4) 


(3) 


8.7 


346 


389 


468 


686 




(l) 


(2) 


(3) 


(4) 


10.9 


349 


389 


423 


473 




(l) 


(2) 


(3) 


(4) 



Note. The numbers in brackets are the scores inside each block used to perform Friedman Anova. 



Friedman Anova: T = 1.4 p = 0.06 



12 



Table 4. 

Number of different words produced by children on the set of novel metaphors in each pragmatic condition 



Age 


CC 


CT 


TC 


TT 


6.4 


503 


510 


462 


454 




(3) 


(4) 


(2) 


(1) 


8.7 


436 


531 


521 


646 




(1) 


(3) 


(2) 


(4) 


10.9 


460 


521 


482 


526 




(1) 


(3) 


(2) 


(4) 



Note. The numbers in brackets are the scores inside each block used to perform Friedman Anova. 



Friedman Anova: T = 3.4 



p =0.033 



The pragmatic conditions affected also the devised dimensions according to which we 
scored the responses. As to the whole set of metaphors, the paraphrases by children aged six 
were affected by the pragmatic conditions on three out of the four dimensions we considered. 
In fact the Friedman Anova (see Tabs. 5-7) showed the effect in the physical judgment, moral 
judgment and action dimensions while the liking dimension was not affected. The action 
dimension was affected by the pragmatic conditions also at nine and eleven; it was the only 
dimension affected in the interpretations given by nine year old children, while in children 
aged eleven the relationship between the speaker and the addressee of the metaphor affects 
not only the action but also the liking dimension. This same pattern of influences can be 
found in the set of the novel metaphors, except for a minor difference: at six the moral 
judgment dimension is not affected by the role of the speaker and the addressee. On the 
contrary, in the frozen metaphor set, the pragmatic conditions affect only the action 
dimension at six and nine. 



13 



Table 5. 

The effect of the pragmatic conditions on the scored dimensions of children's interpretations. Friedman Anova 

on the whole set of metaphors 



Age 


Ph.J. 


MJ. 


Act 


Lik 


6.4 


T=8.04 


T=7.83 


T=23.11 


T=4.51 




p=0.045 


p=0.05 


p=0.000 


p=0.21 


8.7 


T=1.05 


T=4.4 


T=21.37 


T=4.18 




p=0.79 


p=0.22 


p=0.000 


p=0.24 


10.9 


T=6.52 


T=4.84 


T=14.87 


T=8.33 




p=0.09 


p=0.18 


p=0.002 


p=0.04 



Table 6. 

The effect of the pragmatic conditions on the scored dimensions of children's interpretations. Friedman Anova 
on the set of frozen metaphors 



Age 


PhJ. 


MJ. 


Act 


Lik 


6.4 


T=2.51 


T=4.85 


T=9.88 


T=3.75 




p=0.47 


p=0.18 


p=0.02 


p=0.29 


8.7 


T=1.98 


T=3.96 


T=12.05 


T=1.77 




p=0.58 


p=0.27 


p=0.007 


p=0.62 


10.9 


T=5.26 


T=5.20 


T=7.26 


T=2.58 




p=0.15 


p=0.16 


p=0.06 


p=0.46 



14 



Table 7. 

The effect of the pragmatic conditions on the scored dimensions of children's interpretations. Friedman Anova 
on the set of novel metaphors 



Age 


PhJ 


M.J. 


Act 


Lik 


6.4 


T=6.5 


T=3.28 


T=13.86 


T=4.2 




p=0.09 


p=0.35 


p=0.003 


p=0.24 


8.7 


T=3.27 


T=6.69 


T=11.07 


T=6.8 




p=0.35 


p=0.08 


p=0.01 


p=0.08 


10.9 


T=1.87 


T=6 


T=7.8 


T=7.2 




p=0.6 


p=0.11 


p=0.05 


p=0.07 



This fact is not surprising: as we have seen, frozen metaphors were affected by the 
pragmatic conditions as to the number of different words used to paraphrase their meaning 
but not so much by the dimensions of the interpretation they generated: the shifting of their 
meaning depends on the intrinsic context in which they are produced rather than on what we 
can call an effort after meaning which is evident when we ask children to paraphrase novel 
metaphors. Frozen metaphors are given a meaning by default according to the specific 
communicative setting, in a way it is a ready made meaning, while novel metaphors to be 
understood have to be given a meaning whose construction is directed by the world 
knowledge of the interpreter. 

If, in the light of the evidence put forward in this study, this argument may appear a bit 
speculative, the other analyses performed on the paraphrases produced by the children, show 
that it is not the case. 

Actually, we began our analysis of the data from the correspondence, specificity and 
multiple correspondence analyses which were performed on the whole set of metaphors. 
However, for brevity sake, only two examples, one from the frozen (the lion) and the other 
from the novel (the zebra) metaphor set will be given here. 

As can be seen from the graphical representation of correspondence analysis of the lion 
metaphor, four dimensions account for about sixty per cent variability in the responses. (See 
Figs. 1-2) 



15 



In this case the dimensions can be interpreted as: 

1. Age: six year old children clearly cluster together on the basis of 'play', the 'sign Leo', 
'carnival' and the 'mane', which clearly are produced by 'culturally shared knowledge'; nine 
and eleven year olds, on the other hand, are characterized by the common moral judgment: at 
nine the meaning of the metaphor is that the addressee is strong; at eleven that he is brave. 

2. The second dimension is a pragmatic condition, namely the condition child speaker child 
addressee, characterized by 'play' at six, by 'strength' at nine and by 'capability' at eleven, as 
opposed to the other pragmatic conditions characterized by fictitious physical aspect at six, 
and by moral evaluation related to bravery and power at eleven. 

3. The third dimension is the moral judgement linked to age since for nine year olds the 
intended meaning of the metaphor is that the addressee is 'violent' with a negative 
connotation, while for the other children the connotation is positive: 'brave'. 

4. The fourth dimension is again related to the pragmatic conditions since at eleven as well as 
at nine the teacher addressee is opposed to the child addressee, but this does not hold for six 
year old children. This result confirms what we argued from word frequency analysis. 

The words over-represented in the children's responses, as shown by the specificity 
analysis, are mainly the same highlighted by the correspondence analysis, as can be seen in 
Table 8. 

More or less the same pattern of results can be found in the multiple correspondences 
analysis, which will be briefly illustrated (see Fig. 3). Again the first dimension accounts for 
age differences: children aged six relay exclusively on visual resemblances; children aged 
eleven on moral judgment while nine years olds are in between. The second dimension 
expresses liking related to a positive moral judgment as opposed to disliking related to a 
negative moral judgment. As to the third and the fourth dimensions, the results are not well 
defined and clear. 

As to the novel metaphor on zebra, the correspondence analysis (see Figs. 4-5) shows 
that, in this case too, age is the first dimension and six year old children are opposed to the 
older children since their interpretation is based on the concrete visual resemblances between 
the animal and the humans: humans can be dressed like a zebra if their clothing has black and 
white stripes: pyjamas may be an example of such clothing - perhaps in another context this 
interpretations could be viewed as a bizarre response, but not here. Older children, instead, 
base their interpretation on the culturally shared knowledge about the colours of an Italian 
football team: Juventus, and so the addressee of the metaphor becomes a fan of that team. 



16 



Table 8. 

Specificity analysis for the "lion" metaphor 



6CC 


6CT 


6TC 


6TT 


9CC 


9CT 9TC 


9TT 


11CC 


11CT 11TC 


11TT 


lion 


bad 


hair 


to go 


clever 


to get angry is 


beautiful 


character 


aggressive clever 


pupils 


Paul 


teeth 


tail 


hair 


perhaps 


bad 


teacher 


brave 


brave leader 


to lead 


animal 


teacher 


does 


mane 


strong 




screams 


was 


strict class 


brave 


to walk 


likes 


deceit 


many 


is 


• 




strong 


scolds courage 


king 


perhaps 




Hon 


like 








grit 


nice brave 


succeeds 


me 
















everybody king 


to respect 


lot 
















school 


wants 


Leo 




















has 


is 


strong 
is 


bad 

strong 

is 




lion lion 











Note. Upper table: words with positive specificity; lower table: words with negative specificity. 



The second dimension can be interpreted as the contrast between the clothing as a 
concrete object and the dress as the symbol of the football team. The third dimension 
distinguishes the nine year old children from the others since their interpretation is based on a 
moral judgment as 'capable' or 'bad' as opposed to the physical aspect characteristics. 
Finally, the fourth dimension acknowledges the pragmatic conditions in children's 
interpretations: the child as both the speaker and the addressee of the metaphor determines a 
condition which differs from the remaining pragmatic conditions. 

As to the specificity analysis, it confirms that at eleven children give a culturally 
bounded interpretation to metaphors (see Tab. 9). 

In the multiple correspondence analysis (see Figs. 6-7) the first dimension is still 
related to age: at six visual resemblance is opposed to moral and physical judgments at nine 
as well as at eleven. The second dimension is liking vs disliking. The third dimension 
opposes good and bad moral judgments. Finally the fourth dimension does not show a clear 
pattern. 



17 



Table 9. 

Specificity analysis for the "zebra" metaphor 



6CC 


6CT 


6TC 


6TT 


9CC 9CT 


9TC 9TT 


11CC 


11CT 


11TC 11TT 


painted 


to ride 


had 


white 


clever perhaps 


school wears 


contrasting 


tall 


juventino juventino 




neck 


white 


black 


to play they have 


clothing 


juventino 


animal 


was quickly 




weak 


tail 


pyjamas 


wears escapes 




fast 


juventino 


fast 




zebra 


stripes 




is vegetarian 




wants 




to be a 
fan 


stripes 




juventino 




clothing clothing 


was 








clothing 

is 




is 






zebra 









Note. Upper table: words with positive specificity; lower table: words with negative specificity. 



So, several tests verified the hypotheses we started with: we have demonstrated that 
'world knowledge' and 'culturally shared knowledge' play an important role in the 
comprehension of metaphors. The intrinsic context of metaphors shapes the construction of 
metaphorical meaning providing the interpreter with different contents at different ages. 
Moreover, the pragmatic conditions in which metaphors are uttered play a relevant role in 
shaping their meanings. 

The interest of this research consists also in showing that the verbal analysis through 
correspondence analysis of the interpretations given to metaphorical sentences highlights the 
conceptual dimensions underlying the comprehension of metaphors avoiding to impose on 
our data the structures we are expecting. Scoring dimensions can guarantee comparability 
between experiments and materials but, at the same time, may conceal the implicit structure 
of the data. 

Discussion 

At the beginning of the paper, a number of assumptions about the comprehension of 
metaphors and their meanings were advanced. The inferential character of the intended 



18 



meaning of metaphors as the role played by the extrinsic and intrinsic contests in which the 
metaphor is used, and by the world and language knowledge of both the speaker and the 
addressee of the sentence was highlighted. 

In this frame of reference, our research aimed at showing how the meaning metaphors 
can be given depends also on the knowledge the metaphor comprehender has of the social 
role played by both the speaker and the addressee of the metaphorical sentence. To this 
purpose an experiment was devised from the results of which it is possible to conclude that 
even children aged nine and eleven, but not six, in paraphrasing a metaphorical sentence 
acknowledge the socio-pragmatic role of both the speaker and the addressee of the sentence. 
Actually they need more words in order to interpret the metaphor when it is produced by a 
teacher and addressed to another teacher than when it is produced by a child and addressed to 
another child. 

The meaning of the same metaphor changes also with the age of the interpreter: at six 
children rely on the physical and moral judgments as well as on the action dimension; at nine 
only on the action dimension, while at eleven to this dimension the connotative meaning of 
the sentence (positive or negative character of the intended meaning of the metaphor) is 
added. Finally, the novel metaphors paraphrases require children to rely on more dimensions 
for giving them a meaning than the frozen ones; it seems that they require a greater effort 
after meaning than the frozen metaphors the meaning of which is, in a way, a stereotyped 
one. 



19 



Figure 1. 

Correspondence analysis of the lion metaphor. 

Plot of words and groups on the plane defined by the first two dimensions 

(the first dimension explains 2125 % of the total inertia, the second dimension 13.77 %) 



D 

a 
o 



O 
U 



p 



D 

a 



O 



CN 

I 

a 






c 

3 



o 
£. 



i— 
o- 



CN 



E 



>. 

Si 

a 
o 



£ 



u 



o 

0) 



3 ►-' 



c 
o 



D 

E 

c 

D 



•5 D 



0* 



> 

D 



0)0 ■ 
o ■ 



a 
a 



CD 



go. a> 

o o ■ 

- £ 



O 



>- 

"D 
O 

n 

CD 



CD 
£> 
O 



in 
o 



& 



O 



D) 
c 



8 

o 
o 



o 



I 

o 



lO 

o 
O 



&■ 



"D 
O 
C 






o 

D 

"|£ 

X5 O — 

£ > 

) £ 

: O 

O 



grit 



school 

B scratched 



1.5 



child head , 



bravery 



brave 



11TC 



11CC 



0.5 



I 

-1 fear 



was 
lion 6TT 



, to answer 
'some 



capable 
. ■«" to do 

^strong 
<tlass b0CC 



6$£ "6TC 

not -0-5 

good m everybody * 

goes ■ to joke 

wanted 

-1.5 

decided " robust 



5 



pupils 
succeeds 



DIM4 



9TC 



.y^Yf 



whej-i 



to roar 



violent 

clever 



gets angry 



DIM3 



6CT fier .? e 0.5 



9CT 9TT Voeat 



■ scree 



bad 

scolds 

■ 

ilgrltty ■ severe ■ well 

to lead m 'torespect m 

is able 



"^5 beautiful ■ ■ 2 .5 

teachers 



nobody 



-2 - 
-2.5 



5- o 

p. l-» 



& 



§ 

§ <B 

o o 

B. o 

3 3 



— <=*• 



I f 

CD hi 

o 

3 

& 

3 
O 

a 



K» 



3" 

n 



to » " 



to 


CO 


o 

3 


* 


3 


O 


Q. 


CO 


i-h 


H 


y 


,— 


& 


4-1 


3" 


3 


rr 


<J 


m 


n 


,— » 


c 


-i 


O 
1 






5' 


3" 

co 




i 


i 





6* 1 

3 & 

Q 3 

3 Q 

3 

a o" 

-o 



to 

o 



21 



Figure 3. 

Multiple correspondence analysis of the lion metaphor. 
Plot on the plane defined by the first two dimensions. 



a: 

> 



1 

Q 



o 



Q 



O 



8" 



^ n 



a. 



wo 
d 



c 
—> 

2 



o 


d 
> 



o 

i— 



q 

2 



1= _l_ ~ 



LO 
CO 



LO 



D 


LO 


y 


a: 


' — 


•o 


> 


B 


■ 


■ 




■ "2 




1= 


> 




o 


■ 






lo 
d 







O 
o- 



LO 

d 



-C 



LO 

d 



U 



t 

o- 



-Q 
-i 



o 
< 



u 



22 



Figure 4. 

Correspondence analysis of the zebra metaphor. 

Plot of words and groups on the plane defined by the first two dimensions 

(the first dimension explains 26.81 % of the total inertia, the second dimension 15.50 %) 



O) 

c 



c 
o 

U" 



c 

CD 

O 
C 
J3 



D 

5 



c 
p 



(J-- 



D 
£ 

c 

D 



o 



o 
o 



OS 

■D — ■ 
O 



CM 
I 



d 



_>- 

"O 

C 
CD 



O O -Q 
o o- 0) 

N 



in 







D 



o 

p 
u 



O 






u 
o 

-o 



O 



lO 

9 V 

o 



>• 


o 



3 

CD 



o 



CD 
O 

"D 



CD 



•C 



D 



D 

e 

D 
"> 

Q. 



23 



Figure 5. 

Correspondence analysis of the zebra metaphor. 

Plot of words and groups on the plane defined by the third and fourth dimension 

(the third dimension explains 12.99 % of the total inertia, the fourth dimension 10.27 %) 






c 
o 
o 



CO 



D 

£ „ 
■ c 



42 

C 



c r d 



xo 



c 
m 

JZ 

3 






I 
Q 



I 
O 



t5 £ 
j3 



O 

o 



g * 



o 



p 



>o 

d 



U- 



d 



O 

5 



CD O 



■ 1— 

b 6 

o ■— 



in 



d 



o _ 

xz ~ _ 



t5 



C" d 
D ' 

% 

£r 

CD 
> 



0) 

> 
o 



U 
O 
o 



a 

IE 






D 
0) 



o 
E 

c 
o 



>■ 



O 
o 



Q. 
f 



o 



D 
13 i" 



CO 

d 



n 

D 

5f- 

o 
o 



24 



Figure 6. 

Multiple correspondence analysis of the zebra metaphor. 
Plot on the plane defined by the first two dimensions. 



c y 



2 
■ 



CM 

I 

Q. 



£ 



-s 






o- 
D 

> 



o 
o 






CM lO 



s 

o 
<■ 



u 

-o 



•o 



o 

— j 

2 



o 

< 



O 
U 



I E 



in 
o 



P •*- 



— .c 

CL 



O 



o 

a 



d 



D 
>' 




> 



in 



o 
2 






> 



3.5 

3 H 
2.5 

2 



DIM4 



M.JJd 



11CC 



9CT 



Ph.J.O 



1 

6TC 
0.5. 

M.J.O 



V.R.sl 



Ph.J.u 



1.5 ± 6CC 
V.R.ml 



M 



6TT 



Ph.J^s 



Lik2 



9TT 



V.R.cl- 
Actl ^Tg 

1 9CC 

11TC 



■ay 
i 

1.5 

■ 

-2 



'■ActO 



6CT 



DIM3 



Likl 
V.R.mO 

11TT 



"11CT 



■M.J.c 



M.J.s 



Ph.J.f 

' M.J.g 
" Ph.J.b 



a s 


33 




O C 


org" 




r^ »— 1 


a 




a Pfr 




o -s. - 


"i 




3 "S. 


re 






^J 




rrespon 
planed 










8, o> 






3 3 






O O 






a. o 






O" P 






•< g 






f-* Fi 






5* *3 






O Crt 






is of t 
third 






3 n 






& N 






i-h <L 






o a- 






& 3 






3* 3 






a. o> 






5' i 






5 '6 






2 3" 






3 O 






C/3 ^ 




K> 


5' 




Ln 


3 







26 



References 



Gentner, D., Falkenhainer, B. & Skorstad, J. (1988). Viewing metaphor as analogy. In D.H. 

Helman (Ed.), Analogical Reasoning (pp. 171-177). Dordrecht/Boston/London: Kluwer 

Academic Publishers. 
Glucksberg, S., Gildea, P. & Booking, H.B. (1982). On understanding nonliteral speech: can 

people ignore metaphors? Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 21, 85-98. 
Greenacre, M.J., (1993). Correspondence analysis in practice. London: Academic Press. 
Henley, N.M. (1969). A psychological study of the semantics of animal terms. Journal of 

Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 8, 176-184. 
Keil, F. (1986). Conceptual domains and the acquisition of metaphor, Cognitive 

Development, 1, 73-96. 
Kelly, M. & Keil, F. (1985). The more things change..., Cognitive Science, 1, 403-416. 
Lebart, L. & Salem, A. (1988). Analyse statistique des donnes textuelles. Paris: Dunod. 
Lafon, P. (1980). Sur la variability de la frequence des formes dans un corpus, Mots, 1, 

127-165. 
Noether, G.E. (1991). Introduction to statistics. The nonparametric way. New York: 

Springer-Verlag. 
Palermo, D.S. (1986). From the marble mass of language - a view of the developing mind. 

Metaphor and Symbolic Activity, 1, 5-23. 
Siltanen, S.A. (1990). Effects of explicitness on children's metaphor comprehension. 

Metaphor and Symbolic Activity, 5, 1-20. 
Verbrugge, R. (1980). Transformation in knowing. A realist view of metaphor. In R.P. 

Honeck & R.R. Hoffman (Eds.), Cognition and figurative language (pp. 85-125). 

Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum. 
Vosniadou, S., (1989). Context and the development of metaphor comprehension. Metaphor 

and Symbolic Activity, 4, 159-171. 



Authors' Notes 
The research reported in this paper was carried out by Nicoletta Caramelli at the Dipartimento di 
Psicologia, Universita di Bologna, Viale Berti Pichat 5 and Angela Montanari at the Dipartimento di Scienze 
Statistiche, Universita di Bologna, Via delle Belle Arti 41. The research was supported by a grant from the 
University and Scientific Research Minister (40% - 1990 founds). It was presented at the Sixth International 
Congress for the Study of Child Language, 18-24 July, 1993, Trieste, Italy. 



27 



The first author is deeply indebted to Ann Dowker (Oxford University) for her kind advise when we 
planned this research as a possible cross-cultural study.